COVER: State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte at a 2006 banquet hosted by the Washington-based Latino Leaders Network. PHOTO VIA FLICKR
Van de Putte will speak to supporters at 2 p.m. April 12 at the Hays County Democratic Party Headquarters in the Veramendi Building, 125 N. Guadalupe St. in downtown San Marcos, party chair Jon Leonard announced on Thursday. Local Democrats are organizing three shifts of block-walkers to canvass parts of San Marcos and Kyle on behalf of Van de Putte and her defacto running mate, State Sen. Wendy Davis, the party’s gubernatorial nominee.
On Monday, Van de Putte wrapped up a 16-city, 2,500-mile bus tour that clipped nearly every corner of the state, including the lower Rio Grande Valley where Davis seems to be struggling to connect with large numbers of Latinos, a key Democratic Party constituency known to break in pivotal numbers periodically for the right Republican candidates.
Latino activist Ray Madrigal, who works part-time as a municipal judge in the tiny coastal town of Seadrift and who reportedly neither raised nor spent money in pursuit of his party’s nomination, nonetheless bested Davis in important border population centers like Webb and Hidalgo counties. Van de Putte’s tour included a press conference at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, where she touted trade with Mexico as a boon to the state’s economy, and a meeting with veterans at an American Legion Hall in Laredo. Davis lost to Madrigal in both Laredo and Pharr, as well as in McAllen and Edinburg.
Van de Putte also visited Republican redoubts like Midland and Lubbock in West Texas and Tyler and Nacogdoches in East Texas.
“When you talk about East Texas and the Panhandle, that’s sort of a lightening raid into enemy territory. But you’ve got to go in there and try to move up your percentage so your stronger areas can carry you into a competitive position statewide,” Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson told the Houston Chronicle.
With Democrats having lost every general election for statewide office for 20 years, it is exceedingly fair to question whether either Davis or Van de Putte have a shot. However, some pundits and party bosses increasingly think Van de Putte has better chances than Davis, especially if State Sen. Dan Patrick finishes off Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Republican Party primary runoff on May 27.
“If anything is going to bring out the Latino vote, it’s going to be a Dan Patrick. He is waking and kicking a sleeping giant. Leticia’s race, this is one that can really be won,” said San Antonio restauranteur Louis Barrios, a Republican who has served on the fundraising teams for GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn but has crossed party lines to back Van de Putte for lieutenant governor.
In the most recent Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll, conducted in February, Van de Putte trailed both of her potential Republican party opponents by 11-12 percentage points with 24-28 percent undecided in the poll’s sample of registered voters.
In addition to Van de Putte’s presumed appeal to Latino voters, the woman-led ticket hopes to make inroads in suburban counties where women are generally considered more likely than men to split their votes between candidates from both major parties.
On paper, at least, Hays County is still a swing county, but Democrats running for countywide offices have been on an unblemished losing streak here since 2010. With their party’s potentially most viable statewide candidate cheering them on, Hays County Democrats will endeavor to reverse that trend starting with this week’s grassroots outreach.
Leticia Van de Putte kicks off afternoon block-walking
Hays County Democratic Party Headquarters
125 N. Guadalupe St., San Marcos | Map
2 p.m. Saturday, April 12